Print Friendly, PDF & Email


After being canceled in 2021 and postponed numerous months this year, the 2022 edition of the RSA Conference (RSAC) finally went into the books last week. Perhaps throwing a bit of caution to the wind–we are still in a pandemic after all–I met with nearly 40 vendors, 23 of them consisting of at least a 30-minute conversation and sometimes a couple of hours. In this blog, I summarize three takeaways from my week at RSAC 2022.

  1. Buzzwords starting with ‘S’ keep coming: SWG, SD-WAN, SASE, and now SSE

The industry likes buzzwords that start with ‘S’ for whatever reason. The first ‘S’ came some twenty years ago with the arrival of SWG (Secure Web Gateway). Then came the second, SD-WAN, around a dozen years ago. After that, things were quiet until three years ago, when the third, SASE (Secure Access Service Edge), arrived. And the most recent, SSE (Security Service Edge), emerged last year and was in full view at RSAC 2022.

So why SSE? I blame the pandemic.

The pandemic caused an explosion in remote work that exposed severe inadequacies in enterprise IT networks to handle large numbers of remote workers. Fortunately, a crop of vendors–most with a SWG pedigree–were poised to help with their cloud-based security that was ideal for remote work. But SWG was a twenty-year-old marketing term and no longer cool. So instead, vendors wrapped themselves in the SASE mantel.

Confusion ensued since there were competing narratives by networking vendors, who ironically were primarily SD-WAN vendors and tended to remain more faithful to the original SASE premise of network and security convergence. So instead of picking sides, the industry created a new term, SSE, to let security vendors distinguish themselves. So yes, today’s emerging SSE vendors are, in many instances, yesterday’s SWG vendors. What’s different about SSE than prior SaaS-based SWGs is that now multiple security functions run in the cloud, such as CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker), ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Architecture), and FWaaS (Firewall-as-a-Service).

At RSAC, there wasn’t much talk about SD-WAN, but there was about SASE and SSE. It was humorous to hear certain security vendors sometimes use SASE and SSE in the same sentence as if they were freely interchangeable. On the one hand, they were trying hard to check off all the buzzwords, but on the other, a clear symptom of immature markets.


  1. Traditional Network Vendors Double Down and Get More SASE

Two stalwarts of the enterprise networking landscape, Cisco and Juniper, introduced updates to their SASE portfolio.

Cisco has had all the pieces to deploy SASE for some time, but there was no substantive integration. At RSAC, they introduced a new strategy to build a tighter integration between the Cisco SD-WAN and SSE (Umbrella) houses through a new unified manager based on the Meraki cloud management platform. Moreover, Cisco intends to sell everything, whether the cloud service or the hardware, as a subscription.

Meanwhile, Juniper has improved its recently introduced cloud-based security platform, Secure Edge. At RSAC, they announced the addition of CASB and DLP (Data Loss Prevention) services to Secure Edge. Like Cisco’s management approach, they also have a unified manager, Security Director, spanning SRX firewall elements and the cloud-based Secure Edge.

Both Cisco and Juniper are taking an interesting approach to SASE. It’s not all in the cloud since the networking/SD-WAN piece is still effectively on-prem, but nor is it disaggregated bag of parts. They’ve provided me with a lot of food for thought that I plan to infuse into my upcoming SASE research.


  1. Cloud Workload Security Remains a Smorgasbord

Over the last half-year, I’ve been meeting with vendors large and small to understand what cloud workload security, i.e., securing apps/workloads moving to a cloud architecture, means to them. From the onset, things have been cloudy (no pun intended).

On the one hand, we can all agree that the enterprise shift to the cloud is a significant change in IT architecture. The challenges, nuances, and caveats that must be dealt with during the journey from a traditional on-prem legacy app enterprise to a cloud-based, cloud-native app enterprise are significant.   It’s a problem-rich environment that has given rise to dozens, if not hundreds, of security vendors.

On the other hand, the marketing most cloud-focused vendors use to describe themselves is on the verge of hyperbole. But it makes some sense why this is. Considering there are so many problems and challenges to solve, there isn’t any one company that solves them all or even close. So in a landscape that still requires many technologies from many vendors to solve most cloud problems, what does an individual vendor need to stand out? That answer is that they lean heavily on marketing and make it seem like they cover more than they do.

At RSAC, I met with a handful of cloud-focused security vendors, which only reinforced my conviction that it is a smorgasbord of products and overly creative marketing and far from being a single product or even a handful of solutions. Some vendors focus on threat detection. Some focus on risk and compliance. Others focus on the identity implications. Others seek to protect container communication. It’s a literal zoo of vendors. However, in this zoo of vendors, there are some emerging delineations.

Give me any cloud-focused vendor, and I’m pretty sure they’ll fit into one of three significant buckets,  code security (coding/build security),  IaaS/PaaS platform security (ensuring the runtime platform is as secure as possible), and app/container security (runtime security). I’ll be delving deeper into cloud workload security in an upcoming advanced research report. Stay tuned.

While not a numbered takeaway, my parting thought is that after two years of working exclusively via video conference, I’ve concluded that it doesn’t replace face-to-face meetings. There’s a quality and richness that face-to-face brings that current video conference technology fails to replicate. As such, I look forward to upcoming opportunities to engage the security community in person and the next RSAC in April 2023.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Mobile networks continue to advance to support changing supply and demand requirements. In order to manage the rise in mobile data traffic and the diversity of the use case requirements with new technologies, frequencies, and more agile networks without increasing the complexity and costs while still maintaining legacy technologies, mobile networks have to become more intelligent and automated, spurring the need for Intelligent RAN. In this blog, we will review Intelligent RAN drivers, current status, and the ecosystem.


Intelligent RAN Automation Background

RAN automation and intelligence are not new concepts. In fact, both existing and new 4G and 5G networks rely heavily on automation to replace manual tasks and manage the increased complexity without growing operational costs. But the use of intelligent machine-learning-based functionality embedded in the management system and RAN nodes for real time and non-real time processing is new. The combination of machine learning and automation will enable operators to evolve their 5G networks to the next level by autonomously optimizing resources resulting in improved cost and energy budgets.

Intelligent RAN Automation is not confined to just the RAN infrastructure. Instead, these solutions will improve performance, reduce energy consumption, and lower costs across multiple infrastructure and services domains. Huawei envisions its IntelligentRAN portfolio will address three key areas, including networks, services, and operations. Similarly, Ericsson’s Intelligent RAN Automation solution is targeting four main areas: Network evolution, network deployment, network optimization, and network healing. And Nokia’s recently launched Intelligent RAN Operations is targeting operational efficiency gains and equipment power savings across multiple domains.


Not surprisingly, the level of automation varies significantly, with most operators in the very early phases in the RAN autonomy transition. For review, we are showing a table summarizing the current automation framework outlined in the TM Whitepaper:

Why More RAN Intelligence and Automation?

Mobile data traffic continues to grow at an unabated pace while carrier revenue growth remains flat, implying operators have limited wiggle room to expand capex and opex to manage the increased complexity typically inherent with the technological and architectural advancements required to deliver the appropriate network performance while supporting more demanding and diverse end-user requirements.

Leading RAN suppliers envision Intelligent RAN automation will deliver several key benefits:

  • Maximize ROI on network investment
  • Improve performance and experience
  • Boost network quality
  • Accelerate time to market
  • Reduce complexity
  • Reduce energy consumption
  • Bring down CO2 emissions

The ongoing shift from proprietary RAN towards disaggregated Open RAN could accelerate innovation, however, costs and complexity of managing multi-vendor deployments could increase if the networks are not effectively managed. According to Ericsson, operator opex could double over the next five years without more automation across deployment and management & operations just to support the expected changes with MBB-driven use cases.

Performance gains underpinned by Intelligent RAN will vary depending on a confluence of factors. Ericsson estimates Intelligent RAN Automation solutions can improve the spectral efficiency by 15% while Huawei has been able to demonstrate that its IntelligentRAN multi-band/multi-site 3D coordination feature can improve the user experience by 50%, in some settings.

The intensification of climate change taken together with the current power site trajectory forms the basis for the increased focus on energy efficiency and CO2 reduction. Preliminary findings suggest Intelligent RAN can play a pivotal role in curbing emissions, cutting energy consumption by 15% to 25%.


It is still early days in the broader 5G transition, with 5G MBB and FWA in the early majority and early adopter phases, respectively. However, 5G IoT has barely started yet. As private 5G and IoT begin to ramp more meaningfully and diverse use cases comprise a greater share of the overall 5G capex, operators will need to evolve their networks to manage varying latency, throughput, UL, positioning, and reliability requirements. Ultimately it will be extremely challenging to deliver optimal network efficiency across the RAN spectrum with the current networks.

This is why RAN intelligence and automation are increasingly viewed as fundamental elements in the broader digital transformation and autonomy roadmaps. At a recent RAN intelligence roundtable, leading operators agreed AI and automation will be essential components in future networks.


Intelligence and Automation Status

RAN Intelligence & Automation is a relatively nascent but growing segment. Rakuten Mobile’s focus on vRAN and automation has enabled the operator to deploy more than 270 K macro and small cells while maintaining an operational headcount of about 250 people, which is a fraction of that of the typical operator. In the US, greenfield operator Dish is leveraging its cloud-native 5G network and IBM’s AI-powered automation and network orchestration software and services along with VMWare’s RAN Intelligent Controllers to manage costs and to improve performance and innovation for more diverse use cases.

Germany’s fourth operator, 1&1, is planning to build a fully virtualized and open RAN network utilizing specially developed orchestration software to automate operations.

While most of the green field networks are clearly moving towards new architectures that are more automation conducive, change typically does not happen as fast with the brownfields – the average brownfield operator today falls somewhere in between L2 and L3 and still has some way to go before reaching high and full autonomy. Still, China Mobile remains on track for L4 automation by 2025. Vodafone is using RAN Intelligence to boost network quality and to implement Zero Touch Operations.

Also, Etisalat, Du, STC, and Zain recently announced at the SAMENA Telecom Summit that they are collaborating with Huawei to bring more AI into the RAN to improve the performance, enhance the customer experience, and provide the right foundation for more RAN autonomy.

Per Huawei’s HAS2022 analyst event, the vendor remains optimistic L4 High autonomous network will be more prevalent by the 2025 timeframe.


Vendor ecosystem

The top 3 RAN players are also heavily focused on improving their Intelligent RAN Automation portfolios. Huawei recently announced its IntelligentRAN solution, using the Mobile Intelligent Engine (MIE), will be more widely available for both the Site and Network layers by 2023.


Meanwhile, both Ericsson and Nokia have recently announced enhancements and additions to their Intelligent RAN solutions. Qualcomm recently announced its intent to acquire Cellwize, a RAN SMO and Non-RT RIC supplier.

In summary, it is still early days in the 5G journey. Today’s networks are already leveraging automation to manage the increased network complexity. The network of the future will gradually include more automation and AI to provide operators and enterprises with the right tools to proliferate 5G connectivity efficiently. The revenue upside will be limited over the short-term. However the long-term prospects remain healthy.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Each year, I like to take the pulse of the vendor landscape in Optical Transport, and each year I am always impressed by the number of companies that compete in this market. This year is no different.

The good news is that the Optical Transport market, by most measures, is very healthy. The market revenue is just north of $15 billion and has grown at an average annual rate of 5 percent since 2003 (a year when the Optical Transport market was at its worst and network capacity was more aligned with demand). If we focus on WDM systems, this market has grown at an average annual rate of 12 percent. The profit margins here are not the highest among industries but also not the lowest. That said, when considering the type of technology these optical system companies produce, many (myself included) would argue the profit margin should be higher. This leads me to my annual review of the vendor landscape and assessment of vendor competition. The result of my assessment is unchanged—vendor competition is very high in the Optical Transport industry. However, as we all know, the higher the competition, the slimmer the profit margins.

The following are key findings of the vendor landscape that I find the most interesting:

  • There are 23 vendors actively selling optical systems. Nine have headquarters in North America, seven in Europe/Middle East, six in Asia Pacific, and one in Latin America.
  • Of the 23 vendors, there are 10 that develop some optical components either in-house or through a sister company (subsidiary or part of a corporate group).
  • The 10 vendors that have optical component development are also the top 10 vendors in the Optical Transport industry with a combined market share of 97 percent.
  • Among the top 10 vendors, I find that 5 compete in technology. That is, 5 companies spend a larger amount on R&D to develop the latest coherent DSP and photonics to be first-to-market with the newest coherent wavelength technology.
  • The 5 vendors that compete in technology amass a combined market share of 70 percent. More importantly, these 5 companies have 90 percent share of the faster growing 400+ Gbps wavelength shipments and 90 percent of the business with Internet Content Providers.

Hence, while there are 23 optical system vendors in the industry, they are located in different regions of the world, giving them some advantage when selling to local customers. Also, among these 23 vendors, 10 capture the vast majority of the market with half of them competing for technology leadership.

So, what about the 13 vendors competing for 3 percent of the market? First, I am pretty sure each of them will state that they are striving to go after the entire $15 billion. However, considering that 70 percent of the market is held by technology leaders, I argue that the 13 vendors have a SAM (serviceable available market) closer to $4 billion. Second, the remaining companies are not all the same. I believe some are poised to grow and grab some market share while others are just holding on or close to exiting. My assessment of the remaining 13 companies are:

  • Four are growing
  • Four are sustaining
  • Five have stalled

This means that, in actuality, the total number of Optical Transport vendors competing each year is probably closer to 18.

As a point of reference, when I first did my assessment of the vendor landscape over a decade ago, I recall the number of vendors was closer to 30. It took over a decade to go from 30 vendors to 23. Perhaps, in another decade, the vendor count will be below 20.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


We just wrapped up the 1Q22 reporting period for all the Telecommunications Infrastructure programs covered at Dell’Oro Group, including Broadband Access, Microwave & Optical Transport, Mobile Core Network (MCN), Radio Access Network (RAN), and SP Router & Switch.

External challenges including the war in Ukraine, Covid-19 containment measures, and supply chain disruptions impacted the 1Q22 growth rate but were not enough to derail the positive momentum that has characterized the broader telecom equipment market over the past four years.

Preliminary readings suggest the overall telecom equipment market advanced 4% to 5% year-over-year (Y/Y) in the quarter, underpinned by robust demand for wireline-related equipment and modest growth in wireless.

Regional dynamics were mixed in the quarter. Surging revenue growth in North America (+13%) and modest mid-single-digit expansion in Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) were enough to offset weaker trends in the Asia Pacific region.



Vendor dynamics were relatively stable in the quarter, with the top 7 suppliers driving around 80% of the overall market. Taking into consideration that the US government started banning Huawei from acquiring US components back in May 2020, Huawei has done a remarkable job supporting its customers and maintaining its leadership position. At the same time, diverging trends between existing and new footprints are putting some downward pressure on Huawei’s revenue share.

Following three consecutive years of steady share advancements, ZTE started the year on a solid footing, primarily driven by share gains in Broadband Access. Our assessment is that ZTE’s 1Q22 telecom equipment revenue share approached 12% in the quarter, up roughly four percentage points since 2018.

Even with the unusual uncertainty surrounding the economy, the supply chains, the war in Ukraine, and China’s zero-Covid-19 policy, the Dell’Oro analyst team remains relatively upbeat about the short-term prospects. Global telecom equipment revenues are projected to increase 4% in 2022 and record a fifth consecutive year of growth. While this is a moderation relative to the 8% growth rate in 2021 and the outlook might initially appear somewhat tepid in real USD terms with inflation hovering around 7%, it is important to keep in mind that the severity of the risks and the visibility vary across the telecom equipment segments.